The Alexandria Commission for the Arts launched the Alexandria Film Festival in 2007 with a two-fold mission:
- To establish Alexandria as a venue for creating, exhibiting, and experiencing film by reaching out to local, national, and international filmmakers.
- To foster awareness of the cultural and educational value of cinema among Alexandria’s diverse and influential audience.
For the past six years, the festival has presented a diverse and imaginative array of feature films, documentaries, and shorts by U.S. and foreign filmmakers, including several works of Washington-area producers and directors.
2012: Last year’s festival featured 40 films from 18 countries. Three venues, including the Cherry Blossom boat floating in the port of Alexandria, the Patent and Trademark Auditorium and Beatley Library, hosted 17 filmmaker presentations. “Best of Fest” honors went to Uprising Director Frederik Stanton, the “Special Jury Prize” went to Director Randy Bell for Voyage to Amasia and the “Audience Award,” determined by popular vote, went to Where the Yellowstone Goes, directed by Hunter Weeks. This was the second Alexandria Film Festival appearance and award for Weeks.
2011: The 2011 festival featured 47 films from 25 countries. Special guests included more than 20 filmmakers and speakers ranging from the Ambassador of Costa Rica to U.S. Women’s Boxing Team contender Asia Stevens. Venues included the Athenaeum, Lyceum, Masonic Memorial, Black History Museum and the site of the future Four Mile Run Recreation Center. The event opened with Ed Hardy: Tattoo the World, presented by director Emiko Omori, which won the Audience Award. Grand Jury prize was awarded to Des Indiens Comme Nous. Best of Fest was awarded to Voices from Mariel.
2010: The 2010 Grand Jury Award went to Alexandria producer Joe Cantwell and director Hunter Weeks for their film Ride the Divide. Venues included the Athenaeum, Lyceum, Old Town Theater, Durant Center, Convergence Church and AMC Hoffman Theaters. Special guests included Fred Stoller, writer/actor for shows such as Seinfeld and Everybody Loves Raymond and star and screenwriter of Best of Fest winner Fred and Vinnie.
2009: The festival opened with a black-and-white (the recommended attire) party featuring music, open galleries and studios, and silent flicks screened throughout the Torpedo Factory, an arts complex on the Old Town Alexandria waterfront. The rest of the four-day festival took place in The George Washington Masonic Memorial’s Memorial Theater, itself the setting for the opening scene of National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets, a 2007 Disney film starring Nicolas Cage and Helen Mirren.
The Jury Prize was awarded to Redemption Stone: The Life and Times of Tom Lewis, a documentary about a D.C. storyteller who launched the Fishing School as a neighborhood safe haven for needy children in his community. Both Lewis and director Tom Dziedzic appeared at the screening. The 2009 Audience Award was won by Sebastian’s Voodoo, an animated short about a voodoo doll who saves friends from being pinned to death, by Paraguay-born film student Joaquín Baldwin. Other filmmakers on hand for audience Q&As included Aviva Kempner (Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg), Will Gorham (Clean Mic: Laughing Until It Hurts), Alex Scioscia (Game Over and A Frostbite), and James Lecesne (After the Storm).
2008. As a nod to the upcoming Presidential election, the second festival had a theme: “Reel Politics.” It kicked off, appropriately, with a free screening of Recount, the HBO film about the Bush-Gore election, in the City Council Chambers of Alexandria City Hall Other festival screenings took place in the Kaufman Auditorium at Lee Center.
The Film Selection Committee’s Special Jury Prize went toCome Walk in My Shoes, a documentary that accompanied Congressman John R. Lewis (D-GA) on a sentimental journey to landmark sites of the civil rights movement. Director Robin Smith presented the film, which was followed by a performance of civil rights–movement songs by the Ebenezer Baptist Church Women’s Ecumenical Choir.
Also that year, local filmmaker Eric Byler led a discussion of 9500 Liberty, a documentary about Prince William County’s controversial anti-immigration laws.
2007. An audience of more than 1,800 attended the first festival, which featured evening and matinee showings of 10 feature-length films and 11 shorts—with admission to all of them free. The four-day festival premiered with outdoor an showing at Market Square, outside Alexandria City Hall highlighted by a live concert of movie tunes by the Alexandria Singers and a selection of shorts, including films by students from two Alexandria elementary schools. The remaining screenings took place in the Madison Auditorium of the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.
The festival’s first Grand Jury Award for features was given to War Dance, a documentary about children living in a Ugandan refugee camp that in 2008 received an Oscar nomination. Co-director Andrea Nix Fine presented the film and answered questions from the audience. Out of Obscurity, documentary on the 1939 sit-in at the Alexandria Public Library to protest racial segregation, received the Grand Jury Award for short films, with director Matt Spangler on hand for the screening. Other filmmakers presenting their films at the festival were Sandy Northrop (Vietnam: The Next Generation) and Ed Askinazi (The Last Greeks on Broome Street).